Grown Ups is a film about waiting… waiting… and more waiting. What exactly are you waiting for? The plot, which never comes.
This film literally has no narrative, it’s entire purpose (and the entire reason for its creation) was to get some of Hollywood’s best comedic talents together out on a lake and do improv. They get a vacation, the audience gets no entertainment.
That’s not completely fair though. Grown Ups does have some laughs, although many of them are running gags that stretch themselves so thin they’ll tear. Kevin James is fat. Check. Rob Schneider’s wife is old. Check. Chris Rock’s mother has large bunions. Check. Maria Bello breast feeds her four-year old. Check. The important thing to note is that anyone of those gags can become their own drinking game, and more assuredly you’ll be hammered regardless of the path you choose… and “hammered” is another running gag.
There are plenty of starting points for some narrative to take over. The guys reunite after their basketball coach passes away, and must spread his ashes across the lakeside. Ready for some morbid laughs? Nope, the entire thing goes smoothly. Kevin James crushes a bird and the kids want to save it. Where does that go? Nowhere. The sequence at the water park? That’s just stretching this whole thing thin.
The film is essentially over near the 82-minute mark, everyone sorting out some small family problems (some of them literally created on the fly just for this one scene), but it keeps going. If character arcs were the goal here, director Dennis Dugan, writer Fred Wolf, and star/co-writer Sandler finish it all up right there on the dock. Anything more is just an exercise in futility.
Grown Ups was shot with the Panavision Genesis, a capable piece of digital equipment that here looks like the most abysmal, consumer grade camera on the market. The device is capable of delivering incredibly rich detail, the lens behind Predators and Zombieland to name a few. That begs the question what happened here.
Much can be said for the hi-def community reactions to DNR-plagued titles. People look like plastic. In Grown Ups, they look like water color. It looks like you could swim on their faces, not an ounce of texture showing through. It’s so pathetically ugly at the beginning you’ll wonder if your set is beginning to fade, or a connection is wrong. The images just continue a ridiculously smooth look throughout, the scenery that should be gorgeous botched by muddy trees and water that can look like oil. The video is completely devoid of any clean, defined texture.
Sony is certainly consistent with their discs. Few, if any, turn out terribly lackluster, and even fewer are heavily manipulated. The AVC encode maintains a high bitrate too, so compression is a non-issue. That leads to the assumption this is all intent. On the other hand, knowing what the camera can do, this does not fall in line with its capabilities. The other issues of a digital shoot, namely the weakling black levels, are certainly present. They really falter as James and Sandler torture David Spade in his sleep, that nighttime sequence reaching epic levels of grayness.
Are there any positives here? Sure. Like most comedies, the color is richly saturated. It does no favors to the flesh tones, leaving them overly warm and orange-ish. What is does is give incredible life to some scenes, the water park with its overstated blues and colorful clothing jaw-dropping in its intensity. The typically hot contrast, blooming pretty regularly, is not a factor here, toning itself down in these later portions while still delivering clean whites. Nothing looks normal, but at least something is considered eye candy.
The audio design is about as lazy as the script. The moment that dominated the trailer, that of James misjudging a rope swing, carries little or no impact. When he hits the ground, the comedic effect is lessened without that low-end punch. It’s a minuscule attempt at bass on a good day.
There’s barely anything worth discussing, although the retro-inspired soundtrack carries some smooth, natural music, if only in the front channels. Brief moments of surround use include the water park (tons of screaming kids) and the basketball game (tons of screaming from random people who have nothing to do with the movie). The brief fireworks display takes a brief moment to show off afterward too, generating another bout of limited bass, and an echo that tracks front to back.
Fidelity is as clean as you could expect any modern effort to be, and the elements all come together cleanly. Balance is fine, even if there’s not much to balance in the first place.
Dennis Dugan provides the disc’s commentary solo, while 10 deleted scenes just add more nonsensical hijinks. Most of the additional features are just dull EPK efforts, one on the improv (this the only decent one), another on… laughing or something, another on Dennis Dugan, the cast takes center stage on the next, and another on Norm McDonald’s deleted scenes. A Gary Busey cut is here too, separate from the other deleted scenes. Why is anyone’s guess. BD-Live, MovieIQ, and trailers are left.